I’m a southerner and I’ve been close friends with someone from the northern region for three decades now. That’s fifty percent of my adulthood.
In the time we have known each other, we have grown a deep friendship that’s stood the test of time. But to some, our friendship seems unusual compounded by the fact that we have different political ideologies.
I have to admit though; sometime our friendship goes through awkward moments (especially during election times) because of the battle of the tribes. You see, in Malawi, politics are guided by tribal affiliations, and every election since the dawn of democracy has been characterized by ethnic tensions.
It is, however, the May 2019 Tripartite Elections in which the demons of tribalism really exploded, leaving people dead, misplaced, robbed and property worth billions of Kwachas destroyed.
Revered Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) led a bloody campaign soon after the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) declared His Excellency Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika as winner of the presidential elections.
The media quoted him saying his mission was to wrestle power from Lhomwes (referring to APM – a Lhomwe from Thyolo) – who are seen as unwilling to share political spoils. This is absurd though because it is coming from someone who’s leading the most nepotistic and tribalistic political grouping.
The tribalism in MCP is so deep rooted that it’s become a stumbling block to plans of an effective electoral alliance. In as far as possible bedfellows are concerned (UTM and UDF), Saulosi Chilima or Atupele Muluzi are much better leaders than Chakwera having some experience in running government.
These two would have been the obvious presidential candidates but it is impossible for them to lead an alliance because they don’t have a big tribe to bring to the table. This has been echoed by senior MCP members who have publicly said that if they are to go into an alliance then who gets the presidential candidate is not up for debate.
Just look at the history of all MCP coalitions and you will understand. There has always been a Chewa as its president and it’s always a Chewa leading any alliance.
Despite what they preach on the podium, MCP is the ONLY party with structures ONLY in the central region unlike the rest of the major political parties. And before selling off a few positions to tycoons like Sidick Mia and a few People’s Party (PP) officials from the south, the entire National Executive Committee is comprised of Chewas only.
Mind you, allowing people from other tribes to sit at the high table was a financial decision – MCP was and is broke hence in serious need of funds. The seats were auctioned to the highest bidders.
While MCP continues to beat the tribalism drum, its supporters dance to the tunes. This was evident the past few months when people from parts of Lilongwe, Kasungu and Mchinji (all MCP strongholds) harassed and chased those from the south.
MCP’s ‘star’ witness Daudi Suleman took to the podium at their victory rally in Nsundwe and told the nation live that all MCP monitors would come from Nsundwe in the event that we are going to vote again. Their Political campaigns have morphed into grounds for tribal narrative to divide and conquer.
If left unchecked, tribalism is going to continue eating the fabric of Malawi’s social life. It controls everything in MCP from picking a leader to choosing who to go into an alliance with.
And this cancer has nothing to do with education; it is the most educated and powerful in the party who participate strongly in promoting ethnic divisions. Malawians are misled into viewing each other as ‘rival’ tribes and ‘enemies’ and to view each other with suspicion and distrust.
If MCP can blatantly promote tribalism whilst in the opposition, imagine what they’d do if they ever came into power. All of us non Chewas would be thrown into concentration camps.
In fact some of you that are old enough will vividly remember how the MCP regime under Kamuzu Banda chased all the teachers that were teaching in the southern and central regions of the country to go teach in the North only. These teachers experienced untold miseries and I know some of them are still alive today to tell their painful experience.
Sometimes you wonder why some vocal leaders in the North who are old enough to remember this dark chapter in the history of northerners choose to sweep this under the carpet.
Well, whatever the reason, I would like to share the following chichewa proverbs: a) “Ndiolotse Ndikakudye” and, b) “Mpechepeche mwanjobvu sapita Kawiri”.
In fact Hon Kamulepo Kaluwa described MCP succinctly when he said and I quote: “fisi ndi fisi ngakhale achoke tchire lina kupita tchire lina”.
My appeal therefore to all those who think MCP has changed is to reflect soberly on this. For me however, I am not worried.
In fact I sleep well because I know that God would never allow his children to ever suffer again under brutal MCP rule.